Okay so you want to go to Walt Disney World. You want to go as cheaply as possible and so your first thought is that you’ll stay at a hotel outside of the Disney property. But is that really saving you money? Here are some things to consider:
1. Commuting: There are quite possibly hundreds of hotels withing ten minutes of the Walt Disney World Resort. In the off-season, you can probably find a room for $29.99 a night. But remember, you get what you pay for. We’ll get back to hotel costs in a minute, but right now lets look at the time it will take in commuting back and forth to Disney. You may think, “Well, ten minutes isn’t all that bad!” and it’s not. What you need to figure in is that while yes, it may take you ten minutes or less to get on to Disney property, your drive does not end there. The roads through the Walt Disney World Resort are well marked but because there are so many of them, you may not always get the most direct route. You will most definitely need to be map savvy in your travels. Then you need to find parking in the park that you are going to and parking is not free. The current fee to park is around $11 per car. In most cases, the parking lots are not directly in front (or close) to the park entrance and now you will either have a very long walk or a tram ride to get to the park entrance. For example, if you are going to the Magic Kingdom, you will park your car and then take either a ferry boat or the Monorail to get to the park entrance – this is already on top of your car ride. Then imagine doing all of this in reverse at the end of the day when 5,000 other cars are trying to exit with you!
If you stay at a hotel on Disney property, they have bus, boat and monorail transportation to and from all of their hotels to take you to and from the parks. The busses run every 20 minutes and they drop you off as close as possible to the park entrances or your hotel’s main lobby. A lot of the off-site hotels do offer shuttle service, but most of them only run around 4 times a day – make sure you check their schedule as it can limit your freedom a bit.
Also, for those of you travelling with little ones, if you want to go back to your room mid-day for a nap, imagine trying to wind and weave your way through the parking lot with a cranky child and cooling your car in the Florida sun while you are driving back to your hotel. If you are staying on property, a bus would be along within minutes, already cooled and ready to take you where you want to go.
2. Cost: As I mentioned above, in the off season you just might find a hotel in the area for as low as $29.99. But do you really want to stay in such a place? Remember, you get what you pay for. We stayed in one such place on our second Disney trip. We were only going to be there for one night but that was enough for me! The room was clean enough but not Days Inn or Holiday Inn worthy. Luckily it was only for one night! On average, you will most likely be paying around $50-$60 a night for your typical chain hotel. You might or might not get a complimentary continental breakfast in that package. For around $79 a night, you can stay at a Walt Disney World Value Resort. They have four to choose from.
So what are you getting for your extra money? Well, for starters location, location, location! You quite literally are right in the middle of the magic and never have to leave it for the duration of your stay. Next, you have free parking in the parks – so at $79 a night you’ll be saving $11 a day in parking, bringing your cost down to $68 if you were comparing your off-site cost. You get Disney’s transportation at your service that is completely free.
All of the hotels have at least two pools to choose from, arcades, gift shops and massive food courts. You can spend an entire day at any Disney resort and never run out of things to see and do! Also, if you arrive early and your room is not ready, Disney will store your luggage for you until your room is ready and will give you your park passes (if you’ve purchased a package) so that you can begin your fun right away.
3. The Magic Factor: What is the “Magic Factor”? Well, if you are like most tourists walking around any given park in Walt Disney World, you are going to shop. And when you shop, you have to take it with you. If you are staying off-property, be prepared to carry your packages with you everywhere. However, if you are staying on property, your purchases will be sent directly to your hotel! This is a perk to all Disney hotel guests and is available for every day of your stay except for your last one.
Look around you! While most chain hotels are fairly generic looking, a Disney hotel is so much more! Each hotel is themed in it’s own special way and is carried out down to the most minute of details. The value resorts are bright and cartoonish with larger than life icons all over the property and the rooms even have Mickey and friends hidden in the bed covers! The deluxe resorts are more maturely themed but you can still find color schemes that embrace Disney movies and find a hidden Mickey or two in the wallpaper!
The service at a Disney hotel is beyond friendly. When you step in to a Disney resort, you are welcomed and they are excited that you are there. That’s not to say that I haven’t had wonderful service at off-site hotels because I have. There’s just something special about the staff at Disney – they are all called Cast Members – and they take their jobs very seriously.
There are wake up calls from Mickey and Goofy to get your day started. There is babysitting service from the Fairy Godmother’s. It is little things like this that keep you in the Magic for your entire stay!
Now while I’m mainly drawing from having you choose a value resort, the price does vary throughout the year. There are, of course, moderate priced resorts that start at around $129 a night and then the deluxe resorts that start at around $200 a night. But for those of us looking to do this trip as inexpensively as possible, the value resort is your way to go. There are campgrounds, too, if that is something that you want to look in to and for tent camping, sites start at around $39 a night. Me? I need to sleep inside in a bed.
When planning your next trip, don’t think that you have to skimp on the experience! If you have to choose between on-site lodging and off, just remember that off-property is not always the cheapest way to go. Make sure you research thoroughly and take in to account what your time is worth to you!